‘Mum and Dad were alcoholics. They just didn’t seem to care … I got into heaps of trouble at school and stuff like that … Mum and Dad just drank their grog back then … I was pretty well uncontrollable, really.’
When Lucas injured another boy and was sent to a boys’ home in Tasmania in the mid-1970s, his parents never asked him why he had done it. ‘I done it because I was scared.’
Lucas was physically and sexually abused at the boys’ home, by staff and older boys. He recalled one occasion when, ‘I can’t remember what I done wrong. I didn’t even do anything. I got picked up and smacked in the face several times … and then punched … I was nine or 10’.
The staff member who sexually abused him at the boys’ home was also his grandmother’s partner, and when he was released from the home after about nine months, it was into the custody of his grandmother and his abuser.
‘Went to me home. Left the home. Went to me grandparents and I copped the same stuff there as well, so yeah. My grandfather wasn’t me real grandfather … he was bad, too. Was bashing me all the time and like, when I was in the home and that … it was just like, they had a set on me … [I just] didn’t seem to fit in anywhere.’
Lucas told his mother about the abuse but she didn’t believe him. ‘I was accused of trying to cause trouble … She didn’t believe me. I thought, “What am I meant to do? What am I fucking meant to do?” … That’s when I started cutting my wrists and just wanted to die. No one would believe me … I only told me mother. I should’ve told the police and a lot more people.’
Lucas cannot read or write because he is dyslexic. ‘[I] copped a lot of shit over that when I was younger, too, before they really picked it up … I was put in a closet and all at school … probably from nine o’clock till about dinner time, and then dinner time come and I’d piss off from school, and the school’d tell Dad and then I’d get a bloody big hiding when I’d get home as well. Just a losing battle all round … Everything you done, you copped it.’
Being unable to read or write, ‘really buggered me up’. Lucas has been to jail ‘heaps of times … for driving without a licence and stuff’. He finally managed to get a driving licence, and hasn’t been in jail since. ‘[I] just needed help getting me licence.’
‘I was only about 16 when I first went to jail and I was only a kid, put in with murderers and that … hit a few times and you couldn’t go and tell the screws and that because everyone [would] take a set on ya and then you’d have the whole yard, 30 or 40 blokes picking on ya.’
Lucas described his time in the boys’ home and jail as ‘horrible … When I think back on it, [it was] bullshit. You got no protection from no one … Tried to commit suicide a couple of times. Slashed me wrists and that … as a child … When I went to prison … cut me wrists and that as well’.
Lucas was placed in an observation cell in jail that he called ‘the fish tank’. ‘They took me bloody clothes off me … The prison officers … would walk past … just chucked in the fish tank in the nude. They used to walk past and look in the window … pull funny faces and that, to torment ya … You were sitting there with no clothes, no mattress, no blanket, no nothing.’
The abuse Lucas experienced both at home, in jail and at the boys’ home, made him angry. ‘When I think about it, yeah, it just makes me … so angry inside … There’s nothing you can do about it. That’s the worst thing … You live with that all your life … It comes up in your head. What can I fucking do? … You can’t do nothing about it. It’s out of your hands.’
Lucas told the Commissioner, ‘You don’t trust anyone. You put this shield over you and you don’t let no one in … You tell most people what’s happened and stuff, “Oh, yeah”, pat on the back, and that was it’.
Lucas decided to come forward to the Royal Commission, ‘to stop it happening to anybody else … to stop it from happening to other kids. You don’t know … If people don’t talk to you, well, how are you going to stop it?’
When Lucas discovered several years ago that other men who had been in the boys’ home with him were applying for compensation, he thought, ‘No, I don’t really want anyone to know … so I didn’t worry about it’, but after hearing about the Royal Commission a few times, he decided to phone.
‘I’ve been thinking about this … been going to ring and that … [I thought] I should probably try and write it down, but I can’t read and write. If I could read and write there’d be like pages of stuff I could write down.’